WASHINGTON — Boeing Co. on Monday announced a newly designed KC-767 as its proposed aircraft for a $40 billion Air Force contract competition to replace 179 refueling planes.
The Chicago-based company said at a press conference that it tweaked the design of its long-range 767 freighter plane to improve fuel efficiency and allow it to take off and land on shorter runways, giving it greater flexibility in combat situations.
Boeing is competing against Northrop Grumman Corp., which is expected to offer its KC-30, a modified Airbus A330, at a discounted price.
“They can afford to make improvement to the aircraft — by putting in a couple of bells and whistles — and still be well below the price competition,” said Paul Nisbet, analyst for JSA Research Inc.
At stake for both competitors is a multiyear contract to replace a portion of the military’s older fleet of KC-135 aircraft, a medium-sized refueling plane made by Boeing. The $40 billion contract is the first installment of an expected three-phase deal that calls for more than 500 planes and could be worth an estimated $100 billion.
The Boeing-led team includes Smiths Aerospace, a unit of Smiths Group, Rockwell Collins Inc., Vought Aircraft Industries Inc., Honeywell Inc. and Spirit AeroSystems Inc.
Boeing said it would primarily build the refueling tankers at its plant in Everett, Wash., but that additional work — and flight tests — would take place in Wichita, Kan. Boeing estimateed that if the Air Force selected the KC-767, the contract would support more than 44,000 American jobs and 300 suppliers.